Accident victims or their families ask me this question a lot. Sadly, the answer is usually: "no."
Pilots: Most states require drivers on our highways to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in case they injure someone. But pilots are regulated by the federal government, not the states. The federal government does not require pilots to have any insurance at all.
Though not required to have liability insurance, private pilots who own their own airplanes usually carry at least some. Many owner-pilots have policies with a $100,000 per passenger limit. On the other hand, pilots who rent the aircraft they fly usually have no liability insurance at all.
Tour Operators: Many tour operators aren’t required to carry liability insurance either. So they frequently carry none — or just minimal policies with per passenger limits of $100,000 or less. To protect themselves from lawsuits, tour operators place title to their aircraft in shell corporations. By using shell corporations, victims’ families cannot seize the operator’s assets if it is determined that the operator was as fault for the accident.
Aircraft Manufacturers: Even aircraft manufacturers are free to "go bare", and many do. To protect themselves from liability for harm they may cause to others, some well-known manufacturers simply place their most valuable assets — typically their type certificates — in separate shell corporations so that they are out of reach of creditors.
The lack of insurance, combined with the industry’s use of shell corporations, is a major obstacle facing victims of aviation accidents seeking fair compensation from those who have caused them harm. It’s a problem in need of a regulatory solution.